The 2013 Constitution protects the right of all Fijians to freedom of expression in all aspects of community life, including in the practice of religion.
This assurance was reiterated by the Minister for Waterways, Mahendra Reddy, in Labasa at a recent annual firewalking programme at Sangam Mahamariamman Firewalking Temple in Vunivau.
The Bill of Rights, Mr Reddy said, guaranteed a Fijian’s right to freedom of religion, conscience and belief and the right to freedom of expression.
“The Constitution guarantees that we are free to practise our religion provided we do not impose it on others,” he said.
“No where in the 2013 Constitution is there any limitation on expressing religious belief publicly, individually or in a group.
“Fiji is a country of different religions, different beliefs and cultures. It is now a country known to welcome people of all races and faiths
“In fact, the Bill of Rights expressly guarantees a Fijian’s right to freedom of religion, conscience and belief and right to freedom of expression.
“Section 22(2) clearly states ‘Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in private or in public, to manifest and practice their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching.’
“This section could not be any clearer in its protection of the right to practice religion and to talk about and discuss religion in the public sphere,” he said.
Mr Reddy said Section Four of the Constitution establishes the Secular State.
It protects the religious liberty of all Fijians in the State, and provides that religion and the State are separate.
“A Secular State means that religion is a matter for people to decide for themselves, not for the State to decide for them,” he said.
“In this context, the statement that religious beliefs are personal means that they are not for the State to dictate.
“It means that the State cannot subscribe to a religious belief, force a religious belief on others, or regard a particular religion as the official religion of the State.
“We have freedom of religion and it is written in the 2013 Constitution, whatever religion we are following we can openly practice.
Before the Labasa event, Mr Reddy had attended a religious gathering where he was updated by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
“He told me to tell you that we all have equal rights and freedom of religion. Everyone has the opportunity to be happy.
“Everyone has the opportunity to grow and move forward. We are all one and can work together to move this country forward.”